Luxe Life Blog
Photos: Vegas Uncork’d wins raves; Steve Wynn’s vegan lunch a highlight
The hugely successful, four-day Vegas Uncork’d food and wine festivities wrapped yesterday after everything from a beachside barbecue to a late-night star chef DJ session to elegant and exotic Mother’s Day brunches. All were the topping on the cakes served by a cadre of celebrity chefs during the 96-hour, fifth annual, nonstop dining extravaganza.
Bon Appetit and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority sponsored the festival, which proved not only that Las Vegas is Star Chef Dining Capital of the World, but also that this ultimate, top level of star power could only happen on the Strip.
There were more than 24 food-related events during the marathon of meals, and they sadly ended yesterday with first-time Uncork’d brunches at Chef Guy Savoy’s self-named restaurant at Caesars Palace and at current Top Chef Masters contestant Mary Sue Milliken’s Border Grill at Mandalay Bay. The barbecue at Mandalay Bay Beach on Saturday night feature Chefs Charlie Palmer, Alain Ducasse and Rick Moonen serving behind the grills and Megan Romano presiding over an amazing array of desserts, and Hubert Keller spinned the wheels of steel at his nearly Fleur.
But the one event that stood out was the debut vegan experience co-hosted by hotel mogul Steve Wynn and Tal Ronnen, a vegan culinary pioneer and bestselling author of The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat, along with the award-winning chefs of the Wynn and Encore.
Who would’ve guessed that vegan meals could look and taste so good? Who would’ve guessed that nearly 200 foodies would try the new rage cuisine? I was not alone in the praise for the health-conscious and delicious dishes -- and demos put on by Steve’s kitchen kings and queens. Guests included Emily Deschanel of Bones, authors Rory Freedman (Skinny Bitch) and Kathy Freston (Veganist) and vegan bakery and cafe owner Doron Petersan, winner of Season 2 of The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
Steve recently announced an exclusive collaboration with Tal, who is working with the resort’s chefs to develop vegan menus for his restaurants. With “Viva Las Vegan,” Steve introduced a one-of-a-kind event at Vegas Uncork’d with guests devouring meat- and dairy-free cuisine that still tasted like an indulgence.
The inventive, flavorful creations of current Top Chef Masters contestant Alex Stratta of Stratta, Jet Tila of Wazuzu, Kim Canteenwalla of Society Cafe, Mark LoRusso of Botero and David Walzog of Lakeside Grill and SW Steakhouse dazzled. Each chef demonstrated preparations projected onto a large screen so guests could follow along using the ingredients at their stations and take home the recipes.
The dishes: Mark’s pasta and “clams” with eggless granule pasta, kombi broth, broccoli robe, sweet peppers and oyster mushrooms; Kim’s roast tomato bisque and heirloom tomato with cashew cheese salad; Alex’s sweet roasted corn and cashew cream agnolotti with wild mushrooms; David’s vegan “clam” chowder with cashew cream base and smoked oyster mushrooms; and Jet’s jade dumplings with spinach and shiitake mushrooms.
There were organic cocktails from Patricia Richards, award-winning mixologist of Wynn and Encore -- I absolutely loved her cucumber and lime organic vodka drink -- and vegan desserts from Pastry Chefs Kimberly Valdez and Jenifer Fournier of Wynn. Steve’s hotels were the first on the Strip to offer an extensive vegan culinary program and remain a pioneer.
Tal, who catered Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s wedding and counts Oprah Winfrey as one of his clients of his 21-day vegan cleanse, was feted like a rock star. Ellen even sent one of her TV producers to interview Steve and cover the event for an upcoming episode.
“I am excited working with Steve’s esteemed chefs to introduce vegan cuisine to Las Vegas,” Tal said. “I hope diners will find that eating meat- and dairy-free cuisine does not have to feel like a sacrifice, but a step up.”
Steve, celebrating his one-week anniversary, said: “Before we married, Andrea took me last summer to the South of France, and we noticed the remarkable change in a friend who looked 20 years younger, at least 20 pounds lighter, fitter and healthier in every way. He’d gone vegan, and the change for the better was remarkable. I returned to Vegas a vegan and at Christmas gave all my chefs and employees copies of a vegan book and DVD.
He summed it up best: “Health costs for my employees are a $60 million bill for me. Anything I can do to save medical costs and have healthier, happier employees is a great thing. My busted back, which took four operations, is better because of it -- and I know that cholesterol kills. It causes cancer and 30 other diseases. Sad to say, but most American food is suicidal. If going vegan gives us all better health and longer lives, then that’s good for everybody.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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